Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Weight of Water

71% of the earth's surface is water. 60% of the human body is water. 70% of the brain is water. When you're really thirsty, nothing quenches your thirst like water. On a hot summer's day, what's more refreshing than a dip in a cool pool of water? After a long day of work, nothing feels better on your tired muscles than a long hot shower. Water is essential! We can't live without it. You can go for over a month without food, but less than a week without water and you'll be dead.

Biblically, water was created on day one. Land didn't show up until day three. When God decided to destroy the world, He did so by water. How many miracles - Old Testament and New - involve water? In Old Testament purification rituals, cleansing in water was a standard. Spiritually speaking, the term "living water" is used to describe that which flows from the Lord and provides real life (Jeremiah 17:13; John 4:10-11; 7:38).

So why is it that so many churches, denominations, pastors, so-called teachers, or whatever want to argue with baptism by immersion? It is the most simple, understandable thing in the world. If you want to get something clean, water should be the first thing you think of. It is THE most common thing in the world. I don't sprinkle a few drops of water on my car and call it clean. I don't pour a cup of water over my kid's head and say I've given him a bath. Duh!

So why the arguments? Jesus was baptized. Jesus commanded that we be baptized. His apostles all taught that we should be baptized. STOP THE INSANITY! Just obey the command! Stop making excuses ("I don't have to be baptized to be saved.") ... stop trying to redefine what it takes to make someone clean ("Sprinkling or pouring is just as good.") ... just stop, because you are simply making a fool of yourself before the Lord.

Consider the likeness to which the Lord attached salvation ... new birth (John 3:3). A baby exists for the length of the pregnancy in a sack filled with water. "Oh, no! It's amniotic fluid!" someone will say. Really? What woman has ever said, "My amniotic fluid broke"? But you WILL hear a woman say, "My water broke." Birth occurs through water. There's no such thing as a "dry" birth. Even after a woman's "water" breaks, one third of it is replaced every hour until birth. Is it any wonder then that the Lord chose immersion by water to represent new birth? What else would you use? It's the only thing that makes sense.

Again, I would plead for rational thought to prevail. It is not the Spirit, but Satan who would urge a person to find a reason to argue against something as basic and foundational as baptism by immersion in water.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Day of Dry Bones

"The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry" (Ezekiel 37:1-2).

The Lord offered this vision to the prophet concerning "the whole house of Israel" (v. 11). But here's the thing: The "whole house of Israel" ... the people of God ... a very religious people ... did not realize that they were "very dry" bones. They had no clue that - spiritually speaking - they were dead ... and long enough that everything good in them had rotted away.

The book of Ezekiel brings judgment against the Lord's people, but it is also a book of prophetic evidence. God wanted Israel to "know that I am the Lord." The phrase is use 77 times in Scripture, and 63 of them are in Ezekiel. God is making every effort - via mercy or justice - to open the blind eyes of His people ... to raise the dead to life.

But again I note, the people did not realize they were dead! One of the chief sins of the people was the profaning of the Lord's sabbath day (Ezekiel 20). They were worshiping ... and sinning all the while! They were sincere, but sincerely wrong. God does not accept false offerings or prayers or worship.

Let this be a clear warning to the contemporary church. What is being accomplished by the accumulation of popular teachers, and the acceptance of stylish methodologies, and the constant desire to be associated with the world? How is God pleased when we draw closer to the world, rather than closer to heaven?

Like the Israelites of old, a strong majority among what is called "the church" do not realize that they are nothing but "very dry" bones. I'm sure some will argue with me, offering a picture of their physical growth and popularity as proof of God's blessings. Yet these are the very same people - offering their sincere teachings and good works (Matthew 7:22) - to whom Christ will say on the Day of Judgment, "I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matthew 7:23).

As the Lord said to the stomach-turning congregation of Laodicea, so He says to the church today, "You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see" (Revelation 3:17-18).

The Lord is still offering evidence. Although man is making every effort to dumb it down, trim it down or cut it out, God's word is still available. "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day" (John 12:48).

I pray that "the people of God" will open their eyes and ears and hear the word of Christ, "... all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds" (Revelation 2:23).

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dumbing Down Disciples

I'm really confused by the logic of the so-called religious powers that be. Wait! Let's start with an illustration ...

Little Billy is in the 5th grade ... for the twentieth time (which means he's now 30 years old). He just can't seem to understand the material and pass the tests (Insert 'Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?' jokes here). The local school board wants Billy to succeed, therefore they make a decision which will not only help Billy, but all the other little Billys out there. They decide to give him 2nd grade work. He passes all those tests successfully, and they gratefully pass him into the 6th grade. But knowing they cannot give him 6th grade work (because he didn't pass the 5th grade material), they continue to give him 2nd grade work ... all the way through middle school and high school, until Billy proudly walks across the stage holding his diploma ... a diploma that says he completed 12 grades, but in truth he simply repeated 2nd grade material eight times.

Now let's talk about today's Christians, who have sat in church for years and years yet have never grown in their spiritual understanding of the Scriptures. The KJV was too difficult to understand at a 12th grade reading level, so a board of scholars gathered to update the language and bring us the extremely accurate New American Standard Version at an 11th grade reading level. Still too much? People aren't growing? Let's make an easier version!

The New Internation Version was created at a 7th grade reading level ... and we've had it since 1978 ... yet the religious leaders still scratch their heads, wondering why no one's growing.

Two of the latest fads are The Message and The Story. These are being accepted as the next great thing among the churches. The Message - which isn't written by a team of scholars at all, but by one man (a Presbyterian minister) - brings God's Holy Word down to a manageable 4th grade reading level.

The Story takes a different approach. It uses the 7th grade NIV text, but chops out parts that are deemed difficult or redundant. Remember those Bible story books we had when we were children? You know, like three years old? They had pretty pictures and gave us a nice cheery view of God's world. The Story basically does the same thing, yet without the pictures (bummer). Doesn't the Bible specifically warn about not adding words or taking them away (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:19)?

Has anyone stopped to consider that the reason people are not growing is either A) because they really don't care to learn, or B) because they've been dumbed down to the point where they no longer have the ability to learn?

2 Timothy 4:3 (from the 11th grade NAS) says, "The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires." Well, we're there, folks! Today's religious leaders are trained well ... in the same way as the parent of the unruly Wal-Mart child, who gives the screaming child whatever will shut them up the quickest.

Church leaders do not want grumbling church members - as it tends to hurt the attendance and offering - therefore when they complain they aren't understanding the message, the answer is to dumb it down. Give them an easier version of the Bible! Have the preacher give less Bible and more stories, jokes and illustrations! Give them a flashy Powerpoint! Bring on the drama team! Let's spend more time singing, and less time learning!

Why are people so eager to praise God with their mouths and hearts, but not with their minds? Jesus said (and I'll use the New International Reader's Version which is only a 3rd grade reading level, so that everyone will understand), "If you remain joined to Me and My words remain in you, ask for anything you wish. And it will be given to you. 8 When you bear a lot of fruit, it brings glory to My Father. It shows that you are My disciples" (John 15:7-8).

Disciple means learner. If someone's not learning from Christ, they are not a disciple of Christ. If a person does not have the word of God within them ("the seed is the word of God," says Luke 8:11), then they cannot possibly bear fruit.

So what's the answer? STOP DUMBING DOWN THE PEOPLE AND GIVE THEM THE WORD OF GOD!!! "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32, NAS). "STUDY to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).